Women’s major role in boosting Middle East economy highlighted

Supreme Council for Women (SCW) secretary general Hala Al Ansari has highlighted the major role played by female entrepreneurs in the economies of the Middle East region.

In an opinion piece, published by the World Economic Forum under the title ‘Empowering female entrepreneurs in the Middle East’, Ms Al Ansari said that “most science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates in the Middle East are women and tapping into this valuable resource is a key focus for the region”, noting that “Increased female participation in the workforce could add $2.7 trillion to the region’s economy by 2025.”

She asserted that “women entrepreneurs are going to supercharge the economies of the Middle East, as the share of women in professional and technical jobs, led by female entrepreneurs, will more than double by 2030.”

“Supporting these pioneers is therefore becoming an economic and social imperative. This matter is of utmost importance to the Middle East, and several initiatives launched by the public and private sectors across the region are helping to unlock its full potential,” she added.

In her article, the SCW secretary general called for creating an ecosystem for female entrepreneurs.

In this regard, she wrote: “Female entrepreneurs around the world face challenges with access to investment opportunities. Many Middle Eastern economies are working to address that discrepancy by creating a supportive ecosystem for female entrepreneurs.

“Private sector initiatives are an important part of this matrix.” ‘She WINS Arabia’ – an initiative of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – is supporting almost 200 female-led startups in the region with financial solutions, advice and mentorship.

“She’s Next”, a global advocacy programme backed by Visa, is another initiative that is also dedicated to providing access to capital for female entrepreneurs.

“Globally, it has invested more than $2.2 million in female small business owners in the US, Canada, India and Ireland, and has launched in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region for the first time.

“The initiative is running in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and most recently in Bahrain, with the aim of providing grants worth $50,000 to one winner, alongside access to resources such as a workshop library and thriving global community of entrepreneurs.”

Concerning the public sector, she said that its “initiatives have their part to play too. Saudi Arabia is collaborating with the University of Texas at Austin to provide a mentoring platform for female entrepreneurs, while the UAE’s Gender Balance Council has a specific remit to increase female representation on company boards, including startups.”

As for the UN efforts, she indicated that “the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has also launched a new startup competition aimed at supporting female-owned tech startups in the tourism industry.”

Referring to the kingdom, Ms Al Ansari wrote: “Bahrain has supported female-led startups through a variety of initiatives. The kingdom’s National Plan for the Advancement of Bahraini Women has the mandate to enable women to contribute to development, forming an equal partnership in building a sustainable competitive community”. It also has an initiative named ‘Riyadat Financing’, which is a $100m fund aimed at women majority-owned startups and SMEs.

“According to recent statistics, more than 332 women-owned businesses benefitted from the fund in areas such as the sale of pharmaceutical and medical commodities, travel agencies, construction, event management, day-care centres and nurseries.”

In another sub-title on “Enhancing women’s economic participation”, Ms Al Ansari pointed that “Business and trade continue to attract women to join the labour market as it opens doors for added creativity, flexibility and innovation within their direct line of speciality, and having export opportunities enhances women’s economic participation even further.

“Exporting has also proven to create new markets, expand existing ones as well as breaks down borders, and research clearly shows that there is a direct correlation between exports and the exporter nation’s GDP,” she said, noting that “countries in the Middle East are opening doors for female participation in the marketplace. For example, Bahrain – while ‘geographically compact’ – serves as a growing economy offering unique exporting opportunities, through its Export Bahrain initiative and collaboration with the Supreme Council for Women.”

She noted that “the initiative aims to further enhance women’s access and potential to reach global markets through a wide range of programmes, facilities and support that facilitate Bahraini exports to international markets at a value of more than $132m – 32 per cent of Bahraini exporters are women entrepreneurs, to 28 countries, and 50pc of these companies have exported their products or services to regional and international markets for the first time.”

In this context, she shed light on the UAE experience in this field.

“UAE’s ‘Dubai Exports’ has partnered with International Trade Commission and UPS to launch ‘SheTrades MENA’. SheTrades MENA hub will provide women with opportunities to scale up their businesses through increased trade and market intelligence, targeted assistance and connections with each other,” she wrote.

The SCW secretary general devoted a part of her opinion article to the Middle Eastern women’s inspiring success stories.

In this regard, she wrote: “Increasing support for female entrepreneurs is translating into success. In Bahrain, the winners of last year’s Young Female Entrepreneur Seal (granted by Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, wife of HM the King and SCW president) included the inventor of a platform that provides services for remote radiological analysis and diagnosis, the country’s first developer of innovative plant-based products, and a pioneer in the provision of surgical and therapy services for the early treatment of breast cancer.

“Elsewhere, Dubai-based payment app ‘Zywa’ was co-founded by Nuha Hashem and is the first neobank designed for teenagers in the region. The platform allows teenagers to spend, receive and manage money without the need for cash, and has raised $3m to expand across the Middle East.

‘Potion Kitchen’ is a Lebanese clean beauty brand using sustainable Mediterranean ingredients, and Playbook is a Bahraini edtech platform that accelerates career growth for women at every level of leadership.

‘Affectiva’ is a startup co-founded by Egypt-born Rana El Kaliouby that has developed advanced AI technology that enables computers to recognise human emotions through physiological responses and facial cues. Affectiva has received numerous awards and acknowledgments, including being listed on the CB Insights AI 100, and Forbes AI 50.

“Meanwhile, ‘Verity’ – a family banking and financial literacy app co-founded by Dina Shoman – has raised more than $1m to provide financial education for children and their parents.”

Concluding her opinion article, the SCW secretary general said: “The full potential of female entrepreneurs is ready to be unleashed. Enabling the Middle East’s highly-educated women could add trillions to the economy and ensure social stability.

“Entrepreneurship provides women with financial independence and empowerment, inspiring the next generation of girls and young women to pursue their own paths.”


Source: https://www.gdnonline.com/Details/1275995/Women%E2%80%99s-major-role-in-boosting-Middle-East-economy-highlighted-


Share this page Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Linkedin

Read our latest publication

'Bahrain-France Investor Guide' -
is YOUR guide to invest in Bahrain and in France. Click here to view the online guide